Onwards we plod, and with sadness in my heart I will have to say goodbye to The Brick Testament for a while. The site is ongoing, and as far as the Old Testament goes, the only thing available after King Solomon is Job, which is a few books away for me yet. I would make a joke about how the site’s creator is probably still working on setting up the scene for Solomon sacrificing 22,000 cows, but no, that bit is actually on there (last image of that section).
I also noticed that I’ve been negligent in focusing on the names. I said a number of weeks ago that the books of Ruth and Samuel were the same in Dutch, which is almost true. Samuel in Dutch is actually spelled Samuël. I’m not entirely sure why, because the trema is normally used in Dutch to indicate that both letters need to be pronounced (which makes a big difference in ie versus ië, where the former is pronounced ‘ee’ and the latter ‘ee-ye’), but I can’t really see any other way to pronounce the ‘ue’ combination even in Dutch.
The First and Second Book of Kings in Dutch are called Het Eerste en Tweede Boek der Koningen, which means exactly the same. Then you get Het Eerste en Tweede Boek der Kronieken, which is again exactly the same as The First and Second Book of Chronicles.
So, on to the contents of this week’s reading, and I announced last week that things were going to get really confusing. Initially things aren’t so bad – a lot of the start of 2 Kings is devoted to the major prophet Elisha, successor to Elijah, who appears to have been a bit of a proto-Jesus. Not in preaching love and turning the other cheek (or he wouldn’t set bears on little kids), but in the miracles he performs. He brings a woman’s son back to life because she sheltered him for several years, he makes another (or the same, I actually can’t remember) woman’s oil jug and flour pot never run out so that she can still eat even during the famine.
But then we get to the kings proper, both of Israel and of Juda, and within three chapters I’d kind of lost track of everything. It’d help if the Bible were logical and went ‘these are the Kings of Israel: Bob, then his son Tim, then his son Pete, then his son George’ and so on and so forth, and then move on to the kings of Juda, who were Karl, then his son Mike, then his son Bill, then his son Dirk’ etc.
No, what the Bible does is stuff like this: ‘In the fifth year of Joram, son of Achab, the king of Israel – Josafat was then king of Juda – Joram, the son of Josafat, became king of Juda.’
If you had to read that sentence three times, yeah, so did I. And yes, we already have two kings with the same name. Joram son of Achab and Joram son of Josafat. Later on we have Joas son of Joachaz on one side and Joas son of Atalja on the other side, there’s a Jerobeam the Second, and the confusing pair of Jojakim and Jojakin which I also mentioned last week. Then we get to Hizkia who is also called Jechizkia, and at one point they keep alternating between the two, but that’s not until next week.
Let’s just say that none of these kings stuck in the mind very much. They’re all interchangeable in how much they piss off God, who then promptly sends kings of other countries to suppress them (thereby adding even more names to the mix, omg!) with the odd God-fearing king here and there to destroy all the false idols. The foreign kings also keep robbing the temple of all its valuables, which puzzles me, because surely after the first time they do that, nothing’s left? Nothing is ever said of the riches being recovered or replenished.
Let’s see, what other notes did I make… 2 Kings 14 actually makes mention of not letting children pay for the sins of their fathers, which is a breath of fresh air, because even though it is specifically stated somewhere in Leviticus or Deuteronomy, it’s not something that the Israelites have been keeping to all that much. Or God, for that matter, who tells Solomon that he’ll tear his kingdom in two, but for the sake of his father David he won’t do it until after Solomon is dead, so his son’s left to pick up the pieces. This is the kind of twisted logic which is a constant feature in the Bible, and it gets more and more frustrating.
There is also God’s inconsistency in other matters. King Jerobeam the Second does lots of bad things in the eyes of God, but he appears to have been quite successful. King Azarja on the other hand, who does right in the eyes of God, is struck with leprosy. I was also confused about whether Azarja was at some point renamed to Uzzia, or whether that was someone else again.
By the time we get to the end of the Second Book of Kings, Israel is very much down in the dumps. God has finally decided to stop rescuing them, then banishing them, then rescuing them, then banishing them again, and gives them into the hands of the Babylonians. Except even here I am confused, because the Babylonian king conquers Juda and takes the people into exile, but he then still gives them a king. This seems counterproductive, but hey.
And then we’re into the Chronicles. I was getting a little excited about these, because most of the chapters in the Books of Kings say ‘the rest of such-and-such’s deeds, are they not told in the annals of the Chronicles of the Kings?’, so I was looking forward to lots of tales of mighty deeds.
No such luck. 1 Chronicles starts off with a genealogy from Adam onwards. This might have been interesting, had it not been done with Biblical logic.
It starts off well enough: Adam, Seth, Enos, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jered, Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Sem, Cham and Jafet.
Wait, weren’t Sem, Cham and Jafet brothers? Can we not just go down in patrilineal fashion through all the firstborns? No? Oh.
Right, so the sons of Jafet were Gomer, Magog and a bunch of others. The sons of Cham were… What? You want to name the sons of Gomer first? But he… Okay, fine, name Gomer’s sons.
Can we move on to Cham now? No, you want to name the sons of one of Jafet’s other six sons. Fine. Not the sons of the other five? Were they not important? Hello?
Oh, we’re finally on to Cham now. Right, Cham’s sons were Kus and Misraim, Put and Canaan. The sons of Kus: Seba, Chawila, Sabta, Rama and Sabteka. Then randomly the two sons of Rama, no others. But Kus also begat Nimrod, who became mighty on earth, and who begat the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naftuchtites, Patrusites, Kasluchites (from whom came the Philistines) and the Kaftorites.
At this point we’re only at verse 13, and people are suddenly begetting entire peoples, not just sons.
This goes on for a while through all of Jacob’s sons and their sons and their sons’ sons and so on. By 1 Chronicles 3 verse 54 we have ‘The sons of Salma were: Bethlehem, the Netofatites, Atrot, Bet-Joab, half of the Manachtites and the Sorites’.
What? Half of the Manachtites? Did he have half a son? What? I don’t even... What?
We also briefly visit David in 1 Chronicles 3, except his wife is now called Batsua rather than Bathsheba. I know it’s the same woman, because she’s listed as Solomon’s mother. David’s other sons are then named as Jibchar, Elisama, Elifelet, Noga, Nefeg, Jafia, Elisama, Eljada and Elifelet.
Wait, there’s two Elisamas and two Elifelets in there! Did the first two die, or was David several millennia ahead of Michael Jackson in being unable to think up different names for his sons? My head hurts!
By the time I finished my reading for the week I got to 1 Chronicles 9 and the damn thing was still listing names…
So, Bible, here’s a tip: read some fantasy novels. They have these fantastic things called ‘family trees’, and if you were to use one, it might look something like this:
Much more readable. No, don’t thank me. Oh, alright, you’re welcome.